Minimize Damage from Wildfires and Tropical Storms 

August 20, 2020: We’ve been tracking severe weather that can cause damaging winds, flooding, and fires. Firefighters are battling more than two dozen major wildfires in California, and several tropical storms are forming in the Atlantic Ocean. Here are some things you can do to prepare if your church, school, or ministry buildings lie in the path of either threat.

Wildfires Blazing in the West

Hundreds of wildfires have sprung up in the West, affecting a broad area that is struggling with extreme temperatures, dry winds, drought, and dry vegetation. Thousands of residents are being evacuated in California, where 23 of the 367 reported blazes are major wildfires. Meanwhile, Colorado is battling four major wildfires.

If you’re in an area experiencing dry heat or are under a no-fire order, preparing your ministry’s property in advance of a fire can minimize damage. DisasterSafety.org recommends creating a defensible space around your buildings. This includes removing dried or dead vegetation, trimming any tree branches that hang over your roof, and removing anything combustible within 5 feet of each building. Most importantly, determine the emergency evacuation route for your ministry, in case you need to leave quickly.

As a wildfire progresses, blazing embers that fly ahead of a wildfire’s flames pose the largest threat to buildings. Here are a few steps you can take to protect vulnerable areas of your property when a wildfire is approaching:

  • Cover single-paned windows with shutters or ½ inch-thick plywood.
  • Leave a light on in each room to aid firefighters.
  • Place tennis balls in downspouts and fill the gutters with water.

Tropical Storms Forming in Atlantic

Out in the Atlantic, tropical storms continue to form weekly, threatening the Gulf and East coasts. We have already seen nine tropical storms and two hurricanes pop up. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an extremely active hurricane season, with 19 to 25 named storms. Hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30.

If you're in an area that could be a hit by a tropical storm or hurricane, look into repairs and upgrades that could prevent or reduce damage to your church and school buildings. Some projects may require professional help. Here are a few ideas to help minimize damage from a hurricane:

  • When a hurricane watch is posted, move any outside furniture or equipment indoors.
  • Anchor your building’s roof to the walls using hurricane straps. If your windows break during a hurricane, this will help keep the roof from being lifted off by the wind pressure that enters the building.
  • Trim trees and shrubbery. This will reduce the chance that a branch could become a projectile or fall on your building.
  • Install storm shutters on your windows and glass doors. A less expensive option is to use ¾ inch-thick plywood that you can put up when a watch is posted.

Free Resources for Ministries

Whatever disasters are common to your area, our online Safety Library can help you prepare—and recover. We’ve selected a few articles to get you started:

Disaster Planning

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Wildfires  

Additional Topics